Before the presidential election, Iraq, the economy and health care were the buzz words. Now, much of the political talk has shifted to the impact of values voters.
A widely cited CBS News exit poll showed that 22 percent of voters identified “moral values” as their top issue.
Ric Rodeheaver, pastor of students at Evangelical Free Church in Columbia, said that “people always vote based on their morals,” but that “certain values trumped others in this election.”
“We all prioritize our beliefs,” Rodeheaver said. “People have to make choices. At the end of the day, most clear-thinking Americans would rather vote on issues that would let them sleep at night rather than put money in their pockets.”
President Bush, a Methodist, garnered votes from 78 percent of white evangelicals, which made up 23 percent of voters this year, according to The New York Times.
However, it wasn’t just the evangelical Christians who helped push Bush forward Tuesday. Exit polls show that several groups of Protestants, Jews and Catholics cast an increasing number of ballots for Bush.
The president received 52 percent of the Catholic vote, whereas Kerry, a Catholic himself, only obtained 47 percent.
One values issue that might have driven both Catholics and Protestants to the polls was gay marriage. Eleven states passed constitutional bans of gay marriage Tuesday.
Rev. Micah Ernst of Grace Evangelical Church in Columbia said he thought most of the nation was for gay marriage and that he was surprised that the Christian vote might have tipped the scales in Bush’s favor.
“As you hear in the media, the view of marriage today seems to have a liberal slant to it,” Ernst said. “Because of that, I expected that that would be a downfall for our President Bush, health care, education and taxes.
Many voters on Election Day indicated they were also concerned about “moral values” — a broader concern than specific issues such as health care and education.
Republicans ranked terrorism first, followed by Iraq and the economy as priorities for Bush. Democrats were most likely to name Iraq, followed by the economy and health care, while independents picked Iraq and then terrorism, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
Seven in 10 voters would prefer that U.S. troops stay in Iraq until the country is stable instead of having them leave immediately.
“There has got to be some kind of resolution in Iraq,” said Erwin Neighbors, a Republican and a community college teacher from Moberly. “We can’t fold our tent without accomplishing our goals.”
During his second term, Bush is likely to have an opening on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is seriously ill with cancer.
Six in 10 voters say they are comfortable that the president will nominate the right kind of person to serve on the court. Bush has sidestepped questions about who he would name if there were an opening.
But three-fourths of Democrats are uncomfortable with a potential Bush nomination to the high court.
Asked whether Bush should appoint a justice who will uphold or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman’s right to abortions, six in 10 said they want a justice who will uphold the landmark ruling.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 844 registered voters was taken Wednesday through Friday and has a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.